The theory of Humanity is exposed throughout Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Frankenstein, his monster, and his new friend Walton both demonstrate the core of humanity, and at times the lack thereof.
A main characteristic of humanity is the desire for companionship. Walton and the nameless monster mirror the need for a companion in their lives. First Walton writes to his sister, “But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy, and the absence of the object which I now feel as a most severe evil, I have no friend, Margaret.” (Chapter 2, pg. 8). Walton goes on to illuminate his need of the company of a man who can sympathize with both his intelligent mind and his romantic ideas or affections. Until this point Walton has yet to find somebody that he can call his equal. This point troubles him leaving him feeling along until Frankenstein is discovered and brought on board their ship resolving this issue. This resembles the monster’s struggles remarkably. Once created, the monster finds himself alone and craving a family or companion of his own. Watching the family of cottagers gives the monster much peace and happiness, but his craving for a companion could not be satiated from a distance. Upon the cataclysmic event of revealing himself to his beloved family, the monster realizes that his only hope for a true companion is the creation of a person made the same as himself. The monster’s want for a being that appears like him is remarkably similar to Walton’s need for a man with a mind like his own. It could be argued that Frankenstein’s monster as equally human in this respect.
Family is another characteristic of humanity. We are drawn to our families both in times of happiness or sorrow. Frankenstein’s upbringing was ideal. Frankenstein says, “We felt that [our parents] were not the tyrants to rule our lot according to the caprice, but the agents and creators of all the many delights which we enjoyed.”(Chapter 2, page 27).
With this statement in mind, it is hard to believe that a man who experienced such a wonderful childhood would become a man who would give none of this to his own creation. Again and again the monster refers to Frankenstein as his creator, but this seems to be more than just the scientific meaning of creation. Frankenstein is in many ways the monster’s father; responsible for the monster’s actions, care, and upbringing. Returning to my initial statements then, it is not surprising that after the monster’s denial into the family he covets that he should return to Frankenstein to relieve him of unhappiness. This further institutes the idea that the monster is equally as human as Frankenstein and Walton. His actions thus far in the novel have proven to follow the typical human reactions.
It is also important to examine the points where the characters showed the malice of humanity. It is easy to dismiss the murder of the young boy and the sentencing of the innocent girl to the fact that the monster was just that; a monster. However, these are acts of passion. “’Urged by this impulse, I seized on the boy as he passed and drew him towards me… he placed his hands before his eyes and uttered a shrill scream…’” (Chapter 16, page 126) says the monster. Upon learning of the relation between the child and his enemy, Frankenstein, the monster kills because of a strong hate and wish to cause his creator as much misery as the monster has endured.
The monster is not the only character to stray from humanity because of passion. First, his passion for knowledge pulls him away from his family (part of humanity) and then plunges him into the depths of obsession and despair. Finally, when the monster is created, a mixture of cowardice and shame cause Frankenstein to flee. By abandoning his creation, Frankenstein not only abandons his responsibility to give his creation a family or companionship, and begins denying these responsibilities outright later in the story. These however, all return to the underlying causes of cowardice and shame from initially creating this monster.
Straying from the ideals of humanity is part of being human. Having the passions that cause us to hurt, abstain from our duties, and become obsessed make us true humans. The theory here is that yes, there are many qualities that can define humanity; however it’s equally the parts of us that strain our ideals that make everyone human.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Mumbai: Wilco Publishing House, 2002. Print.